Collaborative robots, known as cobots, fill a really nice niche in the overall robot and automation market. Among the first I physically saw were those from Universal Robots. I’ve liked its products from the way they are implemented to the way they are designed.
Despite a flurry of press releases discussing how great sales in the space are, I remain skeptical about adoption. This program for leasing robots tells me that the market needs a spur. Once again, a good program, but will this give sales a shot in the arm?
Here is the news.
Universal Robots (UR) launched its new cobot leasing program in collaboration with DLL, a global vendor finance company. The new partnership enables all manufacturers, regardless of size or capital equipment budgets, to reap the benefits of automation without worrying about cash flow and seasonal fluctuations.
“We’re leveling the playing field by enabling all manufacturers to immediately put cobots to work without an upfront capital investment,” said Klaus Vestergaard, CFO at Universal Robots. “UR Financial Services offers end-users a fast, low-risk and financially-friendly model to accelerate automation in their factories. The partnership makes it easy to upgrade existing cobots, add additional units or test cobots for the first time – and equips end-users to maximize productivity, quality and profitability, without increasing costs or cash outlay.”
DLL offers UR’s customers tailor-made financing and leasing programs designed to meet the needs of the modern manufacturing business. As business needs change, customers will have the option to schedule payments to fit fluctuations in cash flow, upgrade to new equipment, or add cobots anytime during the contract term. At the end of the finance term, customers will have the option to buy the equipment for a fraction of the original cost, upgrade to newer technology, extend the finance term or simply return the equipment.
“We are delighted to establish a global partnership with Universal Robots,” said Neal Garnett, President of Construction, Transportation & Industrial (CT&I) Global Business Unit at DLL. “The market we operate in is evolving rapidly. Through this partnership we can now offer financial solutions for a wide variety of automation equipment. Cobots are transforming the industry and UR is clearly the market leader. Our tailored financial solutions give UR’s end-users an easy way to reduce the risk of deploying cobots by shifting from ownership to flexible, usage-based financing. Manufacturers can build the operations they need to compete and thrive, while people work on strategic tasks.”
UR’s distributor network will work directly with DLL’s dedicated finance experts in each country to provide new payment and leasing options for interested customers. Through the experts’ specialized asset knowledge, flexible financing solutions and strategic marketing resources, they will support UR to execute the growth strategy. End users will continue to experience the benefits of working with UR, including its global reach, local support, service and maintenance, training offerings through its online UR Academy and global network of Authorized Training Centers, and UR’s extensive UR+ Ecosystem.
Next to acquisitions, partnerships are driving actions among major digital industrial supplier players. With today’s announcement, Aras, who labels itself “the only resilient platform provider for digital industrial applications,” announced a strategic partnership with ANSYS that includes the licensing of the Aras platform technology to enable the next generation of digital engineering practices.
When we last saw ANSYS on this blog, Rockwell Automation had announced a partnership to enhance its digital twin and simulation offering.
ANSYS will leverage the underlying Aras platform technologies such as configuration management, PDM/PLM interoperability, API integration, and add simulation specific capabilities to deliver highly scalable and configurable products that connect simulation and optimization to the business of engineering — creating new ways of exploring and improving product performance.
Organizations increasingly expect to leverage simulation throughout the product lifecycle to interoperate with their existing PLM, ALM, and ERP applications. Additionally, customers must address scale and complexity challenges with data and process management, traceability and availability of simulation results across the lifecycle.
ANSYS is leveraging Aras’ resilient platform services combined with its simulation domain expertise and technology for new product offerings to improve productivity and maximize business value from simulation investments. ANSYS will deliver commercial offerings for simulation process and data management, process integration, design optimization, and simulation-driven data science.
“With our open ecosystem approach, this unique collaboration combines the strengths of ANSYS’ industry-leading multiphysics portfolio and the resilient platform from Aras for digital connectivity to dramatically enhance customer value,” said Navin Budhiraja, vice president of cloud and platform business unit, ANSYS. “As simulation technologies impact every product decision, we see the ability of ANSYS solutions to interoperate and link with heterogeneous systems as an important step to accelerate the digital transformation for our customers.”
“We believe that simulation is essential to developing tomorrow’s next generation products, and that better data and process management of simulations is required to enable the digital processes of the future which will support these products,” said Peter Schroer, president and CEO, Aras. “We see the ANSYS and Aras partnership as a potential game changer in connecting simulation to engineering processes for traceability, access and reuse across the product lifecycle.”
20 METATRENDS FOR THE ROARING 20S
Everybody it seems likes metatrends, megatrends, any-kind-of-trends, especially at the beginning of a calendar year. I think that many of these are good idea stretchers. Whether or not they serve as accurate predictors does not matter. People are working on many projects and ideas that will yield something in the future.
Peter Diamandis publishes an Abundance newsletter, preaches Abundance thinking, did the X-prize, and many more futuristic stretch-the-mind ideas.
I lifted the following introduction to his latest newsletter “20 Metatrends For the Roaring 20s.” I recommend visiting the website and thinking through these ideas. He is an abundant optimist about technology. I’m afraid that I’ve been around too many MBAs and marketers. So his idea that someday the Alexa’s and Siri’s of the world will be our loyal servants freeing us from advertising influence pushes aside the factor that these technologies are being developed by companies who survive on advertising. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.
In the decade ahead, waves of exponential technological advancements are stacking atop one another, eclipsing decades of breakthroughs in scale and impact.
Emerging from these waves are 20 “Metatrends,” likely to revolutionize entire industries (old and new), redefine tomorrow’s generation of businesses and contemporary challenges, and transform our livelihoods from the bottom-up.
Among these metatrends are augmented human longevity, the surging smart economy, AI-human collaboration, urbanized cellular agriculture, and high-bandwidth brain-computer interfaces, just to name a few.
It is here that master entrepreneurs and their teams must see beyond the immediate implications of a given technology, capturing second-order, Google-sized business opportunities on the horizon.
Welcome to a new decade of runaway technological booms, historic watershed moments, and extraordinary abundance.
Despite use of the word disruptive in a significant number of press releases, I expect few, if any, truly disruptive manufacturing technologies. Things simply take some time from conception to adolescence to maturity. Products I’ve seen that looked disruptive often didn’t make it due to executive incompetence or lack of vision (same thing).
Watching the flow of press releases and conversations from technology developers, here are a few thoughts for the near future.
I expect to see Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) increasingly integrated as part of overall manufacturing process. The process is getting stable and tolerances are becoming tighter. More than just for manufacturing obsolete parts for service, it will become simply another tool in the discrete manufacturing process.
One non-technology trend that is happening now and I expect it to become nearly ubiquitous except maybe in the “laggard” companies concerns management making a concerted effort to break down department silos and foster teams–not a technology thing but a people thing. Looking at technology for the infamous IT/OT convergence is like looking for a vegetarian in a pork processing factory.
Everyone talks around Artificial Intelligence (AI) as if either the utopian or dystopian future is at hand. Yet when I analyze the opinions, real knowledge of AI is scarce. I expect ever increased integration of Machine Learning and Neural Net technology into automation and operations workflow. We most likely won’t even realize it. Just as my generation brought PCs into businesses and manufacturing first almost as a gimmick and then a generally used tool, Alexa or Siri for manufacturing workflow will just be there.
Improved data analysis leading to improved interactive visualization including AR. I put a lot in this sentence. For a reason. I think data collection, analysis, and visualization are tied together. Why collect data if we don’t run it through some analysis filters and then use it? How do we prepare data for utility unless we continually develop useable visualization? And Augmented Reality might become part of that visualization solution. The jury is still out there.
The entry of major IT players deeply into manufacturing at the OT as well as IT area brings with it more power and connectivity in edge devices. This circumventing of the Purdue Model will continue unabated. We see the major automation players realizing that the automation and control systems are not the ideal gateway for all (just some) process data to enterprise decision-making systems and either partnering or developing for the edge.
It goes without saying that cyber security is becoming more core to engineering at the manufacturing OT level. A press release just came through announcing Rockwell Automation is acquiring an Israeli security company. Expect to see more of that.
One more thing concerns the way software and service are now being bought and sold. And also hardware in many respects. For software, the trend, perhaps begun by Inductive Automation some 16 years ago (note: it is a sponsor), to not buying seat licenses but of buying usage or software-as-a-service is spreading—finally. A stable cloud helps. The experience of Salesforce propelled the idea. This year Hewlett Packard Enterprise put far more than its toe in the water.
I enjoy interviews, but seldom just take random comments through PR people, but a timely email regarding ideas from Gary Brooks, CMO at Syncron that a combination of technology and flexible consumption plans are propelling Product-as-a-Service fits this mold. I first heard of this idea seriously somewhere around 1998. Customers now expect it.
Last, but maybe first, is the pursuit of sustainable products and processes. I wrote several articles and commissioned others about this way back when I was at Automation World. Recently I heard iPod, iPhone, Nest developer Tony Fadell (@tfadell) on the Tim Ferriss (@tferriss) podcast. It was a great interview worth listening to in its entirety. But his passion was really aroused when he talked about his research into sustainable packaging—eliminating plastics.
Brooks also mentioned sustainability.
This is an area I have shirked for a while. Perhaps I’ll start up a newsletter or something (great if I could get a sponsor) to further this discussion from our point of view. With so many billions of humans in the world, our impact on the environment is cumulative and wreaking havoc.
What should I be adding?
I met John Dyck, an old friend from a couple of manufacturing software suppliers and former chair of MESA International, for lunch before Christmas to catch up on what’s happening at his latest gig—CEO of CESMII-The Smart Manufacturing Institute.
The leadership of the organization includes a few people I knew when I was following the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition several years ago. Primarily Jim Davis of UCLA who remains a leader and driving force for smart manufacturing in the US. (See this post, for example.)
Germany may have kicked off government-sponsored research for advanced manufacturing with Industrie 4.0, with China following, and then many others. CESMII along with several sister institutes embodies the US effort to promote smart manufacturing here.
I was aware of the formation of this and other institutes. In the ensuing couple of years, much has happened. John caught me up on progress, and I think you’ll see several progress updates here during 2020.
Following is some background and recent news from the Institute. It labels itself a Network of Networks. “CESMII is about transformation, made possible by collaboration. At our very essence is bringing together individuals, organizations and technologies to create one greater good.”
The term Smart Manufacturing (SM) seems to have caught on in the US as a label for the technologies and strategies involving the digital transformation. Some organizations such as MESA International and SME have embraced it, for example. According to CESMII, “Smart Manufacturing enables all information about the manufacturing process to be available when it is needed, where it is needed, and in the form it is needed across the entire manufacturing value-chain to power smart decisions. Islands of efficiency become interoperable, networked, and resilient solutions to drive transformational manufacturing enterprise performance for any size, level of technical sophistication, or resource availability at lower cost.”
Further, “Smart Manufacturing unlocks real-time data currently inaccessible or unused through new technology tools that realize benefits faster across the manufacturing enterprise.”
In recent news, CESMII announced plans to formally launch an Affinity Group focused on the needs of small-to-medium sized manufacturing enterprises (SMEs). This announcement is a continuation of the institute’s efforts to engage and empower smaller manufacturers, further demonstrated by CESMII’s previous commitment to make institute-directed project funds available in 2020 to small-to-medium enterprises, as appropriate.
CESMII CEO, John Dyck, said of the announcement, “CESMII’s first order of business is to democratize Smart Manufacturing, making it available to companies of all sizes. Small-to-medium manufacturers represent the overwhelming majority of manufacturing companies in the U.S., and it’s critically important we hear their voice and rise to their challenges. The new SME Affinity Group we’re launching and the potential funding we’re willing to allocate show how important we believe smaller manufacturers are to the revitalization of U.S. manufacturing and the strength of our nation.”
A CESMII Affinity Group is a group of members from the CESMII membership base that has an interest in a particular manufacturing sector or problem and works collaboratively to share experiences, perspectives and best practices. Affinity Groups are charged with examining a manufacturing sector or problem strategically, and its members bring their unique abilities, capabilities, and interests to engage the CESMII ecosystem, as needed or desired. Further, Affinity Groups formulate the proper approach to the manufacturing sector or problem for the application of Smart Manufacturing (SM) technologies or Education & Workforce Development (EWD) deliverables. There is no guarantee of CESMII project funds being allocated to any Affinity Group, but input from these groups provides direction for the Institute’s strategies and priorities.
Mr. Dyck continued, “CESMII has the mandate and the ability to empower smaller manufacturers to compete as 21st-century leaders. We are willing to launch a focused Affinity Group for small-to-medium manufacturers to show that we’re here for these companies and believe in them. We’re even willing to apportion a percentage of our project funding to support their needs. But, we need them to engage and lend their voice to shape our plans. We won’t release funds without well thought-out plans we expect will deliver value. We encourage all small-to-medium size manufacturers to come and be a part of our Smart Manufacturing ecosystem.”
CESMII is the United States’ national institute on Smart Manufacturing, driving cultural and technological transformation and secure industrial solutions as national imperatives. By enabling frictionless movement of information – raw and contextualized data – between real-time Operations and the people and systems that create value in and across Manufacturing organizations, CESMII is ensuring the power of information and innovation is at the fingertips of everyone who touches manufacturing.
The Institute is accelerating Smart Manufacturing (SM) adoption through the integration of advanced sensors, data (ingestion – contextualization – modeling – analytics), platforms and controls to radically impact manufacturing performance, through measurable improvements in areas such as: Quality, throughput, costs/profitability, safety, asset reliability and energy productivity. CESMII’s program and administrative home is with the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office.
I have received three different robotic market research reports from two different research firms. Both of these firms seem to do the work that it takes. I’ve done some private contract research and analysis and have an grasp on the work it takes. These reports have major agreements and a few different takes. The short take is that we finally have momentum in new forms of robotics–and that is a good thing.
[Note: In moving this post from my text editor this morning, I inadvertently had left the setting as “publish” instead of “draft”, therefore you received an email with no link. Oops. Sorry.]
Cobot Market Growth
Cobot Market to account for 30% of Total Robot Market by 2027 according to market research firm Interact Analysis.
- The growth rate of collaborative robots is leading the robotics industry
- Logistics will surpass automotive to be the second largest end user of cobots by 2023, with electronics in first place
- In the next five years, the fastest growing regions for collaborative robot shipments will be China and the USA
Market intelligence firm Interact Analysis has released a new market report – The Collaborative Robot Market – 2019 – which indicates strong and sustained growth for the collaborative robot industry.
In 2018, global revenues from cobot production exceeded $550 million. This was almost a 60% increase over 2017; and over 19,000 cobots were shipped. Interact Analysis forecasts that revenues for cobots will reach $5.6 billion in 2027, accounting for almost one third of the total robotics market, and that <5kg and 5-9 kg cobots, popular in small to medium-sized industrial settings, will represent the majority of sales in 2023.
Material handling, assembly and pick & place will be the three biggest applications of collaborative robots. But these functions, which accounted for 75% of cobot revenues in 2018, will drop to below of 70% total revenues by 2023, as other functions for cobots are developed. The use of cobots in non-industrial applications will play a significant role in the coming years – in sectors such as life sciences, logistics, and the hospitality sector. In part this is because they are flexible and easy to set up, making them attractive to smaller companies which may not have previously considered using robots.
Labour shortages and the drive to improve efficiency mean that China will be the fastest growing region for cobot shipments. The demand for simple, cost-effective, entry-level robots, together with different regulations surrounding industrial equipment in China has fuelled the growth of Chinese cobot manufacturers who only supply their local market. This has arguably distorted the market figures. Interact Analysis has responded to this by including in its report two data sets, one with and one without the impact of China. It is important to note, however, that growth outside of China is still forecast to rise at a CAGR of over 30% in the next 5 years.
Maya Xiao, lead analyst on cobots for Interact Analysis, says: “The collaborative robot market is still relatively immature, but Interact Analysis has identified clear potential growth areas, both in industrial and non-industrial settings, enabling manufacturers to respond effectively, and take full advantage of what we predict to be an area which will occupy a significant market share in the coming years”.
Robot Market Declines then Rebounds
- Automotive and smartphone production declines played a significant part in 2019 slowdown
- New applications, lower prices and wider use cases will lead to a significant upturn by 2023
- China shows its strength, both domestically and in attracting external investment
Market intelligence firm Interact Analysis has released a new market report focusing on the industrial robot market. The research outlines reasons to be positive in the sector, despite an immediate, short term decline in revenues.
The report goes into detail around specific headwinds that have challenged growth within the sector, including the slowing global economy, trade wars and uncertainty in the global automotive industry. Compared to 2017, where revenues associated with industrial robots increased by 20%, forecasted declines of 4.3 per cent in 2019 have caused some concern.
Jan Zhang, research director at Interact Analysis, said: “Automotive and smartphone production declines play a significant part in this downturn. As the largest end-user segment for industrial robots – accounting for over 30% share of revenues – any downturn in this area is always keenly felt in automation and robot investment.
“Despite this, however, there are reasons to be optimistic. Long term drivers, both for industrial robots and for automation as a whole, remain very strong. Growth is expected to pick up on 2020, and then accelerate further in 2021 due to new industry applications, lower prices and wider use cases.”
The report’s findings, based on interviews with all leading robotics companies (as well as a wide selection of innovative robot start-ups, system integrators and component suppliers), highlight the importance of new robot types in fuelling this growth. In particular, cobots – collaborative robots – which work alongside humans are finding favour in industries not traditionally associated with the use of robots. Among those industries identified are food and beverage, logistics, packaging and life sciences.
“Growth in these industries can’t fully compensate for the decrease in the automotive industry, but it does warrant optimism for the future,” said Jan.
A central element to the report’s findings is the impact China is having on the global industrial robot market in 2019. While Japan remains the largest producer of industrial robots, with an estimated 45% of total production, there has been significant growth in production capacity and output in China. This can be attributed a number of factors, including Chinese vendors entering the market and inward investment from traditional industrial giants like ABB, Fanuc, KUKA and YASKAWA.
Jan added: “While it is true growth of industrial robot revenues has slowed down, the reasons for this are clear and, for the most part, beyond the control of the vendors. Despite this, however, there is evidence that the industry is diversifying and putting the foundations in place for significant future growth, making this one of the more exciting spaces to operate in.”
Mobile Systems Drive Robot Market Growth
Robotics Industry Set for Seismic Change as Growth Shifts from Fixed Automation to Mobile Systems in Enterprise.
Of the 8 million robots shipped in 2030, nearly 6 million will be mobile.
The robotics market is set to transform over the next 10 years, based on the most comprehensive robotics tracker yet released by global tech market advisory firm, ABI Research. There will be enormous growth across all subsectors, highlighted in a total market valuation of US$277 billion by 2030. That growth will not be distributed evenly, however. By 2022, the burgeoning mobile robotics space will start to overtake the traditional industrial robotics market. Currently, mobile autonomy is concentrated in material handling within the supply chain, but mobile robots are set to touch every sector of the global economy for a wide range of use-cases.
“Everyone talks about self-driving passenger vehicles, but mobile automation is far more developed in intralogistics for fulfillment and industry,” said Rian Whitton, Senior Analyst at ABI Research. “The automation of material handling will see huge segments of the global forklift, tow truck, and indoor vehicle market consumed by robotics vendors and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) that bring indoor autonomy.”
Amazon Robotics is the leader that has driven growth in mobile robotics for the last 7 years since their acquisition of Kiva Systems. With an estimated 256,000 automated guided vehicles deployed to date, Amazon holds close to 50% of material handling robot market share and is broadening its portfolio of robot subtypes with autonomous mobile robots for transport and delivery. Other major Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) developers like Quicktron, JD.com, Geek, and Grey Orange are deploying thousands of robots yearly, while Automated Mobile Robot (AMR) developers are just beginning to scale up. Brain Corp. has deployed 5,000 systems primarily in retail, and BlueBotics has deployed some 2,000 robots for intralogistics in and around the supply chain. Meanwhile MiR, an AMR company acquired by Teradyne in 2018, is beginning to achieve growth rates in excess of the company’s other robotics acquisition of major cobot developer, Universal Robots.
The distinction between AGVs and AMRs can be contested, but AMRs do not require external infrastructure to localize themselves and are built with sensors and cameras to self-navigate their environments. Currently, AGVs represent the majority of mobile robot shipments, but by 2030, this will change. While there will be 2.5 million AGVs shipped in 2030, the total shipments of AMRs will reach 2.9 million in the same year. This is due to the declining costs of superior navigation and the desire to build flexibility into robotic fleets. “Many new verticals, like hospitality, delivery, and infrastructure, will demand systems that do not require external physical infrastructure to move about. While AGVs will thrive in intralogistics for fulfillment, especially in greenfield warehouses, AMRs solve the challenges faced by many end-users by offering incremental automation that does not require a complete change of environmental infrastructure,” Whitton explains.
In a major example of automation extending to new and important vehicle-types, the shipments of automated forklifts are set to grow from 4,000 in 2020 to 455,000 in 2030, with a CAGR of 58.9%. Meanwhile, the revenue for all mobile robotics is expected to exceed US$224 billion by 2030, compared to US$39 billion for industrial and collaborative systems.
Leading the way in mobile robotics are French manufacturer Balyo (which partnered with Amazon), Seegrid (who have sold over 800 units) and a number of smaller actors that are just beginning to scale. This opportunity is leading vehicle manufacturers such as Toyota, Yale & Hyster, and Raymond to partner with robotics companies to offer automation to manufacturers. Given the global shipments for forklifts is close to 1 million, half of all shipments could be automated by 2030.
Another significant sector for mobile automation will be maintenance and cleaning. There are already over 5,000 autonomous floor scrubbers in U.S. retail stores and commercial buildings. With Softbank’s deployment of mobile cleaners for offices being rolled out in Asia and the United States, cleaning robots will become a common sight within the service economy.
Even more esoteric form factors, like quadrupeds, are expected to increase significantly for data collection purposes, particularly for real estate, construction, and industrial inspection. ABI Research predicts that quadrupeds, exemplified by vendors like Boston Dynamics, Zoa Robotics, ANYbotics, and Ghost Robotics, will increase to 29,000 yearly shipments by 2030. “As mature sectors of the robotics industry achieve growth more in line with established technology markets, mobile robotics are set to create lasting transformative effects across the supply chain and will become increasingly ubiquitous throughout the global economy,” Whitton concludes.
These findings are from ABI Research’s Commercial and Industrial Robotics market data report. This report is part of the company’s Industrial, Collaborative & Commercial Robotics research service, which includes research, data, and ABI Insights. Market Dataspreadsheets are composed of deep data, market share analysis, and highly segmented, service-specific forecasts to provide detailed insight where opportunities lie.